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Vatican II —on Indulgences

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Some Lutherans argue that the Roman Catholic Church has become downright "evangelical", particularly with the passage of Vatican II. As a reference point to test that claim, consider what Vatican II says about indulgences. (excerpted from Vatican II, "The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy," "Apostolic Constitution on the Revision of Indulgences", Pope Paul VI, January 1, 1967).

Chapter 2, "The Treasury of the Church “ . . . the ‘treasury of the Church’ is the infinite value, which can never be exhausted, which Christ’s merits have before God . . . This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body.”

Chapter 4, “How Indulgences Developed from the Canonical Penances” “God’s only-begotten Son . . . has won a treasure for the militant Church . . . he has entrusted it to blessed Peter, the key-bearer of heaven, and to his successors who are Christ’s vicars on earth, so that they may distribute it to the faithful for their salvation. They may apply it with mercy for reasonable causes to all who have repented for and have confessed their sins. At times they may remit completely, and at other times only partially, the temporal punishment due to sin in a general as well as in special ways (insofar as they judge it to be fitting in the sight of the Lord). The merits of the Blessed Mother of God and of all the elect . . . are known to add further to this treasure.”

“How Indulgences Have Been Abused in the Past” “Unfortunately, the practice of indulgences has on occasions been improperly applied. This has been either through ‘untimely and superfluous indulgences ’ which humiliated the power of the keys and weakened penitential satisfaction or it has been through the collection of ‘unlawful profits’ which blasphemously took away the good name of indulgences. The Church deplored and corrected these improper uses. It ‘teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences—a usage most beneficial to Christians and approved by the authority of the Sacred Council—should be kept in the Church; and it condemns with anathema those who say that indulgences are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them.’” [Vatican II quotes in the final sentence of this section from the Council of Trent, Decree on Indulgences]